Pennsylvania Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws

Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity at a Glance

While most sex crimes involve non-consensual sexual acts upon another, state laws also regulate consensual sexual activity, to a degree -- such as public nudity or lewd activity. They tend to vary according to the cultural norms of each state, but also must be within the limits of the U.S. Constitution.

Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law prohibits indecent exposure, open lewdness, and disorderly conduct. These are all somewhat related and often overlap. While disorderly conduct is a summary offense, indecent exposure and open lewdness are misdemeanors (each with the possibility of incarceration).

Open lewdness is defined by statute as "any lewd act [of a sexual nature] which he knows is likely to be observed by others who would be affronted or alarmed." Typically, this may involve public sexual acts.

Indecent exposure may include acts of exhibitionism or "flashing," while disorderly conduct may be charged for using obscene language or gestures.

Sodomy Laws in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania no longer has anti-sodomy laws, which are unenforceable even in states where the laws remain on the books (after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas). But at one time in Pennsylvania's history, those found guilty of sodomy -- primarily gay men -- were sentenced to death.

The following table summarizes the key elements of Pennsylvania's prohibited consensual sexual activity laws, with links to additional resources. See FindLaw's Sex Crimes section to learn about crimes associated with non-consensual sexual acts.

Sodomy Laws Applicable to No consensual sodomy laws  
Penalty for Sodomy n/a
HIV Exposure and Compelled Testing for Offenders None (repealed)
Other Crimes Relating to Consensual Sex Acts
  • 18§5503 Disorderly conduct: summary offense
  • 18§3127 Indecent exposure: misdemeanor 2nd degree
  • 18§5901 Open lewdness: misdemeanor 3rd degree

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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Pennsylvania Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws: Related Resources

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